Gippsland artist Cassie Leatham has entered the NATSIAA awards for the second time in a row with a piece recreating the story of Bundjil the wedged tailed eagle, the Creator and totem of many peoples of the Kulin nation.
Back to back selections is a huge feat in itself but it’s one of a long list of achievements by Cassie Leatham.
Talking to NITV Radio, the Gippsland artist said it’s an absolute honor to be presenting her work in this prestigious art awards alongside other talented Aboriginal artists across Australia.
In her own words, Cassie Leatham says: ‘culture is my life’; as she has devoted her life to teaching others about Indigenous arts, crafts, food, medicine and culture.
She lives on a rural property and has adopted the lifestyle of her ancestors: wearing nothing but skins on her back and bare feet and cooking traditionally.
Her days are spent foraging native edible and medicinal plants, seasonal foods and using them in workshops across Victoria.
You don’t have to go to shops to purchase your products; you can actually go out and collect from mother earth.
It is during one of her routine activities that the Gippsland artist found inspiration for her piece shortlisted for this year’s NATSIAA awards (National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Art Awards).
While walking near her home; Cassie Leatham came across objects that reminded her of the creation stories told to her by many elders.
“I made this delightful little pot… I was walking around country and saw two massive adult wedged tailed eagles which is, we call them Bundjil, our totem, our ancestor and creator.”
“The great Wedged Tailed Eagle, Bundjil's feathers fell just as they did in the Creation, and I have collected them to tell those stories in this pot. These are the feathers that created my ancestors.”
The artwork depicting Bundjil's story is made from items collected or foraged on country including pipeclay, wattle sap, stringy bark, mud, ochre, sand crystals and emu fat harvested from roadkill.
“That story is a part of our nation and I’m carrying it forward trough my art using natural mediums again. Which shows that you don’t have to go to shops to purchase your products; you can actually go out and collect from mother earth.”